Part 1 – How to Become a Fleet Manager
Being a fleet manager can be a rewarding career – you’re faced with fresh challenges on a regular basis as well as having the responsibility of managing expensive assets in an ever-changing environment. But it’s not an easy job. So what makes a good fleet manager?
We look at the qualities best suited to the role and from there, share our five tips to help with your success…
How to become a fleet manager
Let’s be honest: ‘I want to be a fleet manager’ is not something schools’ careers officers hear very often. It’s one of those roles that people often fall into rather than strive towards.
There are several paths to becoming a fleet manager and which one you follow will very much depend on where you are in your career. There are no set qualifications needed, with work-based learning, skills training and higher education courses available to support your career progression.
Academic route into fleet management
The academic route has the options of further and higher education courses such as Graduate Certificate of Business Management (fleet management) at the Swinburne University of Technology.
Other training that you may want to consider once in post or striving to achieve your career goals include the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) and the CIPD and Australian HR Institute (AHRI) . The latter provides a good basic understanding of HR, people and leadership.
Work-based route into fleet management
If academia is not for you, then an apprenticeship scheme could be the ideal entry route. Apprenticeships provide on the spot training whilst at work, earning a salary.
Alternatively, consider joining an organisation at a lower level to gain a good understanding of the industry. Make your intentions clear during job reviews that you wish to progress in the industry and never be afraid to put yourself forward for opportunities and experiences to further this.
The benefits of networking
We always recommend making the most of networking opportunities. Groups such as the Australasian Fleet Management Association (AFMA) host regular events that are worthwhile including in your calendar. In addition, take the time to attend leading industry events such as IPWEA Australasian Fleet Conference.
5 skills you need to become a fleet manager
1. Ability to multi-task
This is a job that requires you to think on your feet – unscheduled vehicle downtime, driver availability and managing costs with ever-challenged budgets means having to deal with multiple tasks on a daily basis. It can be a fast-paced role and, at times, not for the faint hearted!
2. Managing budgets
Like every other department in your business, the fleet sector has to balance tight budgets. Costs continue to spiral whilst funds get cut, so there’s always a balancing act between providing a top rate service albeit at minimum cost.
3. Be adaptable
The pace of change in terms of technology and legislation is very fast, so you need to be adaptable to change. You’ll need to be aware of changes, understand how they will impact your fleet and find the best ways to deal with them.
Choosing the most appropriate communication channels and ensuring that the correct messages are received is a skill. If you get this right you’ll make all the difference in securing that all-important buy-in from staff.
The ability to inspire confidence and trust is, in our view, essential, while the ability to quickly analyse information and solve problems is critical.
Part 2 – 5 Tips to Become an Effective Fleet Manager
1. Only record the important information
We advise you to be selective when it comes to recording information – too much data can be overwhelming! Only collect information you think is necessary to make informed decisions. This includes:
- Procurement: The purchase or leasing contract details of each vehicle.
- Utilisation: The time, date and distance vehicles have made, including odometer readings.
- Fuel: The fuel transactions including costs, fuel type, quantity and date.
- Maintenance: The service schedules, costs, parts, labour and work done.
- Accidents: The driver, vehicle, damage, cost and liability.
- Compliance: Dates of compliance events, requirements and documentation.
It’s easy to forget to collect the basic information, but just as easy to collect plenty of irrelevant information too. This in turn creates unnecessary administration.
2. Update your driver policy
Your number one priority is the safety of your employees, customers and other road users. With most accidents being due to driver distraction, this could be a good opportunity to monitor driving behaviour, update policies and review driver training tools.
It goes without saying, having appropriate health and safety measures in place is a necessity. We stress that these should be regularly reviewed and updated for auditing purposes – the importance of safety through compliance should be present throughout your business.
We know this sounds daunting, but help is at hand thanks to technology. These include digital fleet vehicle inspection forms that can record when and where they were created and submitted through to telematics to track driving habits.
You should work closely with both human resources and health and safety departments to manage potential risk and develop suitable training plans. Finally, and most importantly, make sure that your employees are aware of their responsibilities to minimise the risk of accidents before they actually happen.
3. Keep focused
As we said at the start, recording and monitoring will really help. Vehicle, maintenance, fuel, staff and other business costs all add up so it is essential you look for possible savings and avoid unnecessary losses across the entire business. Be vigilant too – a saving in one department can easily be lost by another.
4. Get out and about
There are hundreds of friendly and interesting people in the fleet industry (and we include ourselves in this!). So get out and about and meet them.
In our view, the best way to do this is to be involved in industry organisations. These groups often organise events aimed at fleet operators so can provide a wealth of information and the chance to network.
But a quick word of caution from us – try and avoid ‘associations’ that heavily push their own commercial interests or business partnerships.
5. Check your resources
We recommend you regularly review your fleet of vehicles and the tasks that they need to carry out to determine if they are still right for the job. Is an SUV with low fuel economy really the best choice for long distance journeys when a smaller vehicle could return better cost savings? Look at alternative fuel and vehicle types to see if by switching, you could return greater efficiencies and cost savings.